BFI president Ajay Singh: Performance in the Olympics not as good as we wanted it to be

BFI president Ajay Singh feels the national body needs to take a few initiatives to achieve a better performance in the next Olympic Games.

Amit Panghal of India in action at the Tokyo Olympics.   -  REUTERS

Reviewing the Tokyo Olympics performance and looking forward to Paris 2024, Boxing Federation of India (BFI) president Ajay Singh feels the national body needs to take a few initiatives to achieve a better performance in the next Games.

Singh spoke to Sportstar to share the future plans of BFI.

On Olympic review and looking ahead

We are doing the review. Also we are looking at 2024. Part of the reason we are here is to see how our boxers are doing and identify some good support staff. While we do the review, it's important to look at the future as well. We need to look at 2024 and 2028 and see what best we can do. We came a long way in the last four years. The performance in the Olympics is not as good as we wanted it to be. Certainly we will make some changes. We need to put all our energy and effort to ensure we've a good 2024 Games.

On change in approach

What happened in the Olympics was we peaked [early] for 2020. We expected it to be in 2020. And then there was Covid-19 and perhaps the fitness was not up to the mark in some cases and we had a very, very long gap because of Covid in our training camp, etc. I think we will make some changes in the coaching staff in fitness and conditioning. We will look at the infrastructure we have. We also plan to consolidate our boxing programs into fewer centres so that we can focus on those centres. We also want to ensure that we have a better boxer identification program in terms of having more open championships so that we are not dependent only on the National structure for boxer identification. We want to promote the boxing league in a big way, fight nights in a big way. We want boxing to be part of India's sporting culture. Long term that's the vision and that's what will get us medals like some other countries. I think India is on the cusp of medals in boxing, whether that happens in 2024 or 2028. We think we are getting there. What we are doing is a considerable improvement upon what has happened in the past. Great promise and we will do our very best.

On resumption of the boxing league

We are discussing that with the licensees of the league. We are also discussing a proposal for the Fight Nights. We should get going really soon.

On potential of women’s boxing

Women's boxing probably has even greater potential than men's boxing in this country. This culture of gritty women, they are just part of us, it also comes from our heritage and religion of deifying women. In India, women have a point to prove and in many cases they are better than men. There's fantastic potential in women's boxing and India expects to be a leading country in women's boxing and a lot of focus will go into development of women's boxing from sub-junior to elite.

File image of BFI president Ajay Singh.   -  Kamal Narang


On the approach to selection for Asiad and Commonwealth Games

The Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are part of our Paris 2024 programme. Of course, we expect to do well and it's a question of the country's pride. We need to send good boxers to the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Our task is to create four boxers in each weight category who are equivalent. We can decide whom to send where based on the National requirements of getting medals but also as preparations for 2024.

On holding camps in India

Our priority and objective always is to have camps in India. When we do that and conduct as many international and open championships as we can – India Open which we will hold shortly we expect to get 25 teams early next year. We are also looking at getting a lot of teams from outside, we can have three or four of our teams and we would get much more training and exposure. We would have held training camps prior to the Olympics here in India. The Covid situation was really bad at that time. Foreign teams were hesitant to come here, and spar and practice with us. We will do it and India is a leading boxing country and a lot of teams are interested to come here. Covid was a concern for people. We will hold and skew this much more India centric approach for training and championships.

On grooming young talent

We need to identify many more young boxers. So many of them have come through this and this time what we have done is we have given opportunity to the second teams of the top three teams of the last national championship Services, Railways and Haryana to field a second boxer for the trials so that we don't miss out on good young boxers.

But the best way of identifying young boxers is having many more open championships at district, state and national levels so that so many boxers that we probably miss out in the system where only one boxer from one weight category from one state participating, we get a bunch of boxers. India is a massive country and it’s impossible that in a country of 1.3 billion people, we have just a few thousand boxers. We probably have a few hundred thousand boxers. They just need a bit of encouragement and build that base.

On possibility of India playing a role to bail out boxing internationally

We are working with the IOC, we are talking to the AIBA as well. The IOC needs to take a call. In fact, boxing to be right in the future, India needs to play an important role. We will certainly play a role.

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